CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — The government’s operations against the Maute group resulted in 50 casualties among the Philippine Army troops on Friday, 17 days after President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law in Mindanao.
In a press conference by top military officials at the Camp Brig. Gen. Edilberto Evangelista here on Sunday, June 11, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the battle occurred between 3AM in the morning until 5PM at Barangay Lilod Madaya in Marawi City. Lorenzana said the Philippine Marines lost 13 of its men, two of them are officers.
“Close to 40 troopers sustained shrapnel wounds from explosives and bullet wounds from snipers,” he said.
Lt. General Carlito Galvez, Jr., Commander of the Western Mindanao Command said the soldiers had difficulty during the firefight as the members of the Maute group managed to transfer from one building to another passing through “rat holes.”
“Binubutasan nila yung mga buildings, nakakatakbo sila. Papasok sila sa isang area, lalabas sila sa kabilang area. That’s the difficulty that we had because the terrain is theirs,” Galvez said.
Galvez said “it is the most difficult, deadly, and bloody” situation. “It will take days, even take months to clear a block, napakahirap talaga (It’s really difficult),” he said.
He said the terrorists had the advantage as they had positioned their forces in buildings.
“If they have 10 snipers, one sniper each can hit 10,” he said.
He said the situation was very fluid at that time as the government pushed to gain “more 500 meters.”
He said the enemies also used mortars against the Marines.
Mortars, he said, can create 11 casualties. “How much more yung casualty natin sa snipers? That’s the reality of war,” he said.
The latest count of government troops wounded in the fighting is 84, while 58 are killed.
In his press conference with the media in Cagayan de Oro City, Presidente Duterte explained the Maute group’s advantage over AFP troops, thus making it difficult on the part of the government to control them immediately.
He said: “Long before, sinabi na namin matagal ‘to kasi nakapwesto na silang lahat. They were already deployed on vantage position. Kumbaga sa away ito, umaakyat ang mga sundalo ko na sila nasa on top of the mountain. So ang target nila, nasa baba, ‘yun ang Armed Forces. ‘Di marami kaming patay. Hindi ko naman akalain na ganun kalala kasi now lumabas na si Baghdadi mismo, the leader of the ISIS has specifically ordered terroristic activities here in the Philippines.”
He said the government has already recovered Marawi except for “one or two buildings there.”
“Sniper. Iyon lang ang tatapusin. But ang sundalo, they’re there in Marawi na. Meron lang dalawa, two buildings with snipers. So until now, pati nga bata tinamaan ehI lost 58 yesterday soldiers. Add it to the growing numbers already,” he said.
In justifying the continued war in Marawi and Martial law in Mindanao, he added: “This is a time for war. Mga kapatid kong mga Maranao, lahat na pati the Moro world of Mindanao: I do not want to fight. I cannot… I simply cannot wage a war against my own people. I pray that there will be a short period of war activity and we expect it to be over soon.”
Lt. General Eduardo Año, Chief of Staff of the AFP said they have already sealed off the exit of the terrorists, isolating them in a three to four barangays.
“It’s a matter of time (when) we will be able to clear all the barangays of Marawi City. But we will do it deliberately and carefully, hindi natin pwedeng mamadali (we cannot rush it),” he said.
“In a few more days we will be able to clear the whole of Marawi,” he said.
The government is looking forward to “liberating Marawi” on Independence Day, Monday, June 12. The flag-raising ceremony pushed through at the provincial capitol complex of Lanao del Sur in the city on Monday morning, however the fighting was still ongoing.
Lorenzana also described it a “temporary setback” that has not diminished the government forces from fighting.
“It instead primed up our determination to accomplish our mission to: continue our prudent advances to neutralize the enemy, save the innocent lives trapped in the fight, and set the conditions for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi,” he said.
The Army said 191 local terrorists have been killed by the government troops since the fighting in Marawi City broke out.The military recovered 154 firearms including 50 caliber machine guns, M60 machine guns, sniper rifles, assault rifles and ammunition.
Lorenzana said 20 non-combatant civilians “have been killed by the terrorists.”
As of 5pm on June 8 the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Crisis Management Committee has tallied 239,887 internally displaced persons due to the Marawi conflict.(davaotoday.com)